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With the addition of Arkansas State, Arizona State, St. Mary's, Tennessee and Wisconsin, there are now only three spots left to be filled for the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship June 3-4, 2017 at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia. These additions, announced Monday, put the tournament on a path to having its most competitive field to date.
The Red Wolves, Sun Devils, Vols and Badgers are all CRC veterans, while the Gaels are newcomers. St. Mary's is routinely one of the top 15s programs in the country, and they won USA Rugby's 7s title last season. They'll be expected to give Bay Area rival and four-time defending CRC champion Cal a run for its money.
The team which played the Golden Bears the closest in 2016 is Arkansas State. The Red Wolves played Cal in pool play, losing by two scores. Luck would see them meet Cal in the quarterfinals the next day, resulting a similar outcome The Bears' next-closest game was a 24-point win over UCLA in the final. In two years of competition, A-State is 5-1 in pool play and 0-2 in the quarterfinals.
Arizona State is making its second appearance in the tournament, having not competed since the inaugural event in 2010. The Sun Devils have routinely fielded a competitive 7s side since then, though, reaching the semifinals of last year's USA Rugby 7s championship, eventually falling to St. Mary's by a single score.
Tennessee is making its third appearance this spring and Wisconsin its fourth. The Vols reached the quarterfinals in the inaugural tournament, but went winless in 2016. The Badgers made the quarterfinals in 2012 but haven't returned since.
Two of the final bids to the big dance will be won in winner-take-all qualifiers, the Las Vegas Invitational March 2-4 and the Heart of America Classic, March 25-26 in Kansas City, Kan. Both qualifiers will see teams from across the country duke it out for a shot at the CRC, with the winner of each punching their ticket. 2017 marks the first year there has been two open qualifiers in play. Traditionally, the LVI was the only one, having propeled the likes of Life and Arkansas State into the main event.
With the inclusion of St. Mary's, the CRC now boasts all but one program which has ever laid claim to a USA Rugby 7s title and all but one which has ever won the CRC. Lindenwood won the 2015 USA Rugby championship, and the Lions are expected to try and play their way into the CRC via both the LVI and HOA. Utah won the inaugural CRC, and the Utes played their way into the big dance again in 2016 via the LVI.
CRC Teams to Date